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Current laws on sex work , introduced by the Conservative government in , make it illegal to purchase or advertise sexual services and illegal to live on the material benefits from sex work. Although it is legal to sell sexual services, in some cases it is illegal to solicit in public areas. It is the first time in Canadian history that the exchange of sexual services for money is made illegal. The Canadian Department of Justice , claims that the new legal framework "reflects a significant paradigm shift away from the treatment of prostitution as 'nuisance', as found by the Supreme Court of Canada in Bedford , toward treatment of prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that disproportionately and negatively impacts on women and girls".
The new laws came in response to the Canada AG v Bedford ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada , which found to be unconstitutional the laws prohibiting brothels , public communication for the purpose of prostitution and living on the profits of prostitution. The ruling gave the Canadian parliament 12 months to rewrite the prostitution laws with a stay of effect so that the current laws remain in force.
There has long been a general agreement that the status quo of prostitution in Canada was problematic, but there has been little consensus on what should be done. While the act of exchanging sex for money has been legal for most of Canada's history, the prohibition of the activities surrounding the sex trade has made it difficult to practise prostitution without breaking any law.
Canada inherited laws from the United Kingdom. The first recorded laws dealing with prostitution were in Nova Scotia in Following Canadian Confederation in , the laws were consolidated in the Criminal Code in These dealt principally with pimping, procuring, operating brothels and soliciting. Most amendments to date have dealt with the latter; originally classified as a vagrancy offence, this was amended to soliciting in , and communicating in Since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became law, the constitutionality of Canada's prostitution laws have been challenged on a number of occasions, successfully so in , leading to a new legislative approach introduced in Before the provisions were struck down, the Criminal Code made the following unlawful: On March 26, , the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down part of two provisions, subject to appeal, and the declaration is not in effect.
Lawyers for the respondents pointed out that the last minute appeal left them little time to respond. The activities related to sex work that are prohibited by law include operating a premises sexual services establishment or brothel where such activities take place, being found in such an establishment, procuring for such purposes, and communicating such services soliciting in a public place, making it difficult to engage in prostitution without breaking any law.